With legislation allowing school districts to extend their existing bonds and lifting prevailing wage requirements from school construction stalled in the Assembly, an emergency measure with just the bond rollover language was signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval Wednesday afternoon.
Sandoval, flanked by Republican and Democratic leaders, said during a news conference the bill would allow school construction to begin nearly immediately and the bill would alleviate an immediate need for overcrowded schools.
“You walk through these schools, and you see the number of kids in a classroom, you see some of these dilapidated conditions in the schools,” he told the Associated Press. “You have to do something. You have to do something with a sense of urgency.”
SB207 cleared the Assembly Wednesday with all Democrats and 9 Republicans — including Reno’s Pat Hickey and Las Vegas’s Lynn Stewart and Majority Leader Paul Anderson — in favor. The final vote was 27-14 with Michele Fiore absent.
It was introduced and passed through the Senate Tuesday as an emergency measure.
“I’m very happy we can start school construction in Washoe and Clark counties,” Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas said. “This is a good day.”
The tea party wing of the Republican Assembly balked at the bond rollover language in the original bill, describing it as a new tax voters should weigh in on.
With Democrats in the lower house also opposed to the original measure because of the changes to prevailing wage requirements, that left SB119 without the votes to get through the Assembly.
SB207 was designed by Roberson to circumvent that problem, get those Democratic votes and win approval for the bond rollover language.
“Our children need schools and they need them as soon as possible,” said Anderson.
Stewart said he recently visited a Clark County Spanish class with more than 40 students and a band class with 65 and also sees the need for more school construction.
Hickey said he respects the opponents but contrary to their arguments, “this bill is not a new tax.”
He said if lawmakers don’t extend the bonds for another 10 years, that bond capacity would be claimed by other entities, leaving schools no way to get new funding under the state’s bond cap.
“There are also other elements that will be addressed by this body that were addressed in SB119,” he said — a reference to the fact the language exempting schools from paying prevailing wages for construction is far from dead. That piece of the legislation will soon be introduced in a separate measure and will undoubtedly pass on a party line vote by the Republican majority in each house.